Prostate Ultrasound: How It Works

There may come a point during a checkup or office visit that your doctor has reason to be concerned about the health of your prostate. One method for diagnosing problems with the prostate or just giving it an overall health inspection for prostate cancer is the prostate ultrasound probe. This may be used on males of any age, but is most often done to address prostate-related health concerns in men over 40. A prostate ultrasound is quick and easy with very few, minor risks associated with the procedure. If your doctor suggests a high-intensity focused ultrasound for your prostate, you may not know what to expect. However, the process is painless and can often be done during an outpatient visit, so you have nothing to worry about. If anything is found, a prostate biopsy may be required.

What is a Prostate Ultrasound?

A prostate ultrasound probe, also called a rectal ultrasound, uses an imaging machine that receives sound waves and produces pictures to inspect your prostate or rectal area. The machine works by sending out sound waves, which are then reverberated off of your organs, tissues, or in this case, the prostate, kind of like a digital rectal exam The sound waves are then received and ultrasound imaging is created, giving your physician the opportunity to visually assess the area, which can help him recognize abnormalities in size or shape, growths or tumors, and diagnose a series of problems. At the very least, your doctor may be able to rule out some serious illnesses.

The machine is also compatible with a Doppler probe. This device allows your physician to hear the sound waves as well, which can help him recognize things like the rate of blood flow near the area and the direction of the flow.

Reasons Your Doctor May Suggest a Prostate Ultrasound

In the event that your doctor suspects trouble with your prostate gland, usually due to finding increased prostate-specific antigens in a blood sample, they may recommend a prostate ultrasound. This ultrasound will help your doctor identify the problem with your prostate if there is one, or possibly rule out an issue with your prostate gland altogether.

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Your doctor will be able to check blood flow to your prostate, recognize masses, or find abnormalities that could be potentially dangerous or life-threatening.

During treatment for prostate conditions, like prostate cancer, your doctor may use an ultrasound to monitor the treatment and keep an eye on the size of your prostate. The prostate ultrasound is often used to help place a needle for treatment of serious prostate illnesses.

Typically, prostate ultrasounds are not used in general checkups and are not used to check the wellness of a healthy prostate. Your doctor will generally only recommend a prostate ultrasound if they already have a reason to be concerned about the health of your prostate.

If you are concerned about your prostate, talk to your physician. They will be able to determine if a prostate ultrasound is necessary and there may be other tests that will help determine the health of your prostate.

How to Prepare

If you are nervous about your prostate ultrasound, the best thing you can do is relax. Your physician is well-trained and capable and the risks associated with a prostate ultrasound are incredibly minor. Talk to your doctor before the procedure. They should be able to answer any and all questions you may have, and they should provide you with information concerning what to expect and how to prepare.

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  • Your doctor may give you a small enema before the procedure. Too much stool in the rectum will affect the accuracy of the imaging.
  • Your doctor will thoroughly explain the exam and address any concerns you may have about the procedure.
  • You may be asked to fill out a questionnaire about your daily habits, health concerns, and allergies.

What to Expect

Your prostate exam should be pretty quick and simple, and should not cause you any pain. Some patients say that a prostate exam is slightly uncomfortable, however. Here’s what you should expect during a typical prostate ultrasound:

  1. You will be asked to remove any clothing covering the area. You may be given a paper sheet or cloth to cover the area while you wait.
  2. You will be directed to an exam table. Your doctor will have you lie on your left side with your knees bent upwards towards your chest.
  3. Your doctor will coat the transducer with a clear gel lubricant and place it into the rectum.
  4. They will then move the transducer probe slightly to examine different areas, including the prostate and its surroundings.
  5. If your doctor is examining the blood flow in the area, he or she will use the Doppler probe.

If you are allergic to latex, you should inform your physician. Typically, the probe is placed in a latex sleeve before the procedure, but your doctor may want to use other methods if you have an allergy. The ultrasound should be quick and painless. If you feel any discomfort during the exam, be sure to notify your doctor. This may be a sign that something is wrong.

Risks and Post Examination

The risks associated with a prostate ultrasound are incredibly minor and vary depending on your existing health issues. Your doctor should discuss these risks with you based on your current medical records. Always ask your doctor if you have any concerns.

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This procedure also requires no specific aftercare. After the ultrasound, you will be asked to get dressed. If your doctor has another exam they would like to perform, they may do so after your prostate ultrasound. Otherwise, you should be free to go home afterward. The results are immediate, so your doctor will discuss with you what he was able to see on the ultrasound. If more testing is necessary, they should inform you and set up a time and date for further exams.

After a prostate ultrasound, you should be able to return to life as normal. If you experience any pain or discomfort near the area after your ultrasound, make sure to notify your doctor.